Baked Char or Shrimp Scampi with Spinach and Lemon
Recently, we had a bunch of family visiting with a wide range of palette preferences (meaning some would eat fish and some would not). My mom and I decided to make some chicken thighs in the crock pot for those who might not like fish, and I headed off to my favorite fish wholesaler, Pagano’s, to buy enough fish to feed 10-12.
At Pagano’s I decided to buy about 2 pounds of my favorite (and healthy) fish, Arctic char, and another 2 pounds of salmon (which I do not care for) and conduct a very informal taste-off. I prepared both the same way: first I generously salted each fillet, then sprinkled on some fresh pepper, slathered on Extra Virgin Olive Oil, then sprinkled with dried oregano, thyme and rosemary (because I forgot to buy fresh herbs). Atop parchment paper on cookie sheets, I baked the 2 fillets at 450 degrees for about 12-15 minutes (note: if one end is thin and the other thick, tuck the thin end under or it will over-cook).
Baking a thick fish fillet like char or salmon this way is a snap. Preparation takes all of 1 minute and the result is delicious every single time. Everyone at our family get together – even the kids – liked it. And folks were evenly split as well between the char and salmon. Which made me smile because prior to this, I was the only Arctic char fan – mostly because I was the only one who ever heard of it.
There was one big problem. The taste-off totally backfired on me, since my husband declared he far preferred the salmon (which again, I do not care for) to my favorite fish, Arctic char.
Sigh. So now when I bake fish – which is a go-to weeknight dish for me – I will have to buy and bake salmon AND char. Or pretend I forgot my husband preferred salmon.
Guess which I’m doing. (My poor husband. And he’s such a nice guy, too.)
OK, so back to cooking fish. The taste-off was in my mind the following week when I found myself at Pagano’s again. This time, I was cooking for just my husband and me – and I got the bright idea to buy not only the char and salmon (it’s too soon to play the ‘I forgot’ card!) but also some fresh shrimp so I could cook dinner at home 2 nights in a row.
Hasn’t happened in weeks.
But I did it. I made the char/salmon on Tuesday night last week, and on Wednesday, I made a Shrimp Scampi with a dozen gorgeous fresh shrimp that William at Pagano’s kindly deveined and shelled for me.
The scampi recipe is a bit more complex. Oh, who am I kidding. The fish takes all of 1 minute to prepare while the scampi (as long as someone else deveins it) takes, oh, about 5 minutes.
So, pretty easy. And yet a totally different flavor profile – and served over pasta instead of quinoa or rice – so it’s a nice alternative to a fillet.
I made my scampi with spinach but if you don’t care for spinach you could use parsley instead. The recipe I included below is a quick, easy, and pretty basic-tasting dish – it’s quite good, but not wildly flavorful (great if you are looking to please a group that includes kids). Personally, it ended up a bit too bland for us, so next time I make it, I’ll up the red pepper flakes and add a can of anchovies to the hot oil before cooking the shrimp: the anchovies melt in olive oil (literally, not kidding!) and impart a nice, deep flavor that does not taste like anchovies!
So if you are looking for a quick, healthy weeknight seafood dish that is neither overly spiced nor spicy, try either a baked fillet or a shrimp scampi. Recipes abound online, but my go-to simple fillet preparation is to just toss a nice thick salmon or Arctic char fillet that’s been salted, peppered, olive-oiled and dusted with a few herbs on a cookie sheet covered with parchment paper, and bake at 450 degrees for 12-15 minutes.
And let me know if you try the anchovy trick – or have other ideas to up the punch of this shrimp scampi!